Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa 2018 underway in Accra

By Iddi Yire/William Fiabu, GNA

Accra, Sept. 28, GNA – The Forum on Internet
Freedom in Africa 2018 (FIFAfrica18) is underway in Accra.

The three-day meeting is being organised by
the Collaboration for International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa
(CIPESA), in partnership with the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA).

The Forum is a landmark event that convenes
various stakeholders from the internet governance and online rights arenas in
Africa and beyond to deliberate on gaps, concerns and opportunities for advancing
privacy, access to information, free expression, non-discrimination and the
free flow of information online on the continent.

Since inception, FIFAfrica has also served as
a platform to mark the International Day for Universal Access to Information
(IDUAI).

Engagements at the Forum, which is being
attended by over 360 participants from across the African continent and beyond,
aims to reflect current trends and concerns in access and usage of the internet
and related technologies on the continent.

Mr Vincent Sowah Odotei, a Deputy Minister of
Communications, who delivered the keynote address at the event, said the
rapidly expanding use of the Internet and digital platforms in Africa had given
true meaning to the rights of hundreds of millions of people across the
continent to “seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds.

He said the internet had brought cyberspace to
the doorsteps of people, whether they were high and mighty or low and
disadvantaged, enabling them to engage actively in public discourse on
political issues, governance, social and economic development at local,
national, regional and international levels.

Mr Sowah Odotei said the spread of information
networks was forming a new nervous system for planet, Earth; stating that,
“when something happens in another continent, the rest of us learn about it in
real time and we can respond in real time as well”.

“Let us all bear in mind that the more freely
information flows, the stronger societies become bearing in mind that access to
information helps citizens hold their own governments accountable,” he added.

He said free flow of information generates new
ideas, encourages creativity and entrepreneurship.

He said the Government had shown its
commitment in developing a solid and dependable Information and Communications
Technology (lCT) infrastructure by laying the Eastern Corridor Fibre Optic
Backbone, which runs from Ho to Bawku, branching off at Yendi to Tamale.

The Deputy Minister noted that the
infrastructure covers 27 districts and towns within the coverage area of the
Fiber Optic Backbone.

He said the infrastructure was intended to
extend the national backbone infrastructure to all districts in the country,
provide national data facilities and connect al public institutions to a single
shard communications and computing infrastructure in order to facilitate
efficient delivery of government services to businesses.

He said the Government continues to attach
great importance to ensuing that telecommunication and ICT facilities, which
could now be described as a basic necessity of life, were available in all
parts of the country in this regard.

Mr Sowah Odotei said the rural telephony
project was launched in Abenaso, in the Eastern Region this year to connect the
town and surrounding communities with ICT facilities and telecommunication
services.

He said expanding telephony connectivity
services to rural communities in the country would help open rural communities
to opportunities for the development of skills and knowledge, as well as the
growth of businesses and the local economy.

Mr Sulemana Braimah, Executive Director, MFWA,
said the forum sought to deliberate and discuss the issues of internet freedom
in Africa, look at what the challenges and what the prospects were and going
forward what strategies they need to adopt to ensure that the internet
ecosystem and the environment was such that it continues to empower people.

He said the internet must continue to give
people the avenue to express themselves and also continue to allow people;
particularly young people, to freely express themselves and to be innovative.

Mr Charles Onyango-Obbo, the Founder and
Publisher, Africapedia Limited, said today’s generation must fight for internet
freedom in Africa.

He said “The Big Men” (African dictators) now
understand that the internet had allowed a new type of “digital/visual
secession”.

Dr Wairagala Wakabi, Executive Director,
CIPESA, lauded Ghana for its excellent democratic credentials; which was a
model for the rest of Africa to emulate.

He said spreading the physical footprint of
FIFAfrica across different regions of the continent would ensure that the Forum
lives up to its goal of unpacking internet freedom challenges and opportunities
in sub-regions of Africa and developing responses that are collaborative, and
informed by insights from the experience of other sub-regions of the continent.

GNA

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